Malaysia has come a long way, from a nation that achieved independence six decades ago, to what it is today – one of the fastest growing economies in the region, emerging as a high-tech industry-based economy, from its roots as a basic commodity producer of petroleum, tin and agro-based products.
Since independence, Malaysia’s gross domestic product(GDP) rose from merely US$1.9 billion (RM7.85 billion) in 1960 to US$296 billion in last year.
We are within the world’s 35 largest economies by GDP and also within the top 20 countries in terms of ease of conducting business, recording a trade surplus of RM94.3 billion last year with a total trade of RM1.47 trillion.
A significant factor for this growth has been sound economic policies that were geared towards global competitiveness through gradual liberalisation of the economy and the automotive industry is not spared.
The recent 2015-2016 Global Competitiveness Report (GCR) published by the World Economic Forum ranked Malaysia as the 18th most competitive economy in the world (6th in the Asia Pacific region).
Through the Global Competitiveness Index, it measures the economic institutions, policies and factors within countries that set the sustainable current and medium-term economic prosperity levels.
Interestingly, the GCR showed that Malaysia is among the top 10 countries in terms of goods market efficiency and financial market development.
Other notable pillars are our business sophistication, innovation and labour market efficiency.
Despite our overall high ranking, we must strive to improve our ability to compete in the globalised world.
It is noteworthy that despite upward trends in the GCR, we must improve in the areas of technological readiness and human capital development, especially within enrolment rate into secondary and tertiary education, as well as use of information and communications technologies.
The world is moving through the fourth industrial revolution in which competitiveness does not only require intellectual capital, but also a unified intellectual capital – one that must penetrate all corners of the nation and provides each member of society access to social upward mobility, while harnessing all forms of expertise.
From a strategic point of view, Malaysia’s automotive industry has evolved in function from merely spurring local production to becoming the final baton holder in creating a Malaysia that is a worthy contender in the high-technology industrialisation process.
Since the formation of Proton, which was centralised in Shah Alam, automotive industrial zones have been operational across the country, in Melacca, Kedah and Pahang.
There are more than 500 vehicle parts and components manufacturers nationwide.
Automotive technology has also started to penetrate Sabah and Sarawak, through the recent establishment of the transport innovation centre in Kuching, which will allow stronger participation in automotive research and development activities.
However, in the age of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data, one factor must be managed - perception. As Malaysians, it is our duty to have a fair world view to remain competitive as the ability to make fair assessments as where we are and where we need to be will ensure that our relevance within the world’s economy is sustained.
Lastly, we must realise that no person, business or industry can survive alone in a vacuum.
To propel the nation forward, we recognise that each member of society, from all walks of life, levels and backgrounds – contribute to the nation’s wealth and knowledge in their own unique way.
I urge all Malaysian citizens to strive and excel in their own area of expertise and contribute to the pool of excellence that we have built since independence and for many years to come.
In order to ensure the continuous growth and prosperity of the nation and its citizens, let us iron out our differences and work together to make Malaysia the advanced nation it deserves to be.
The famous saying goes “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
Happy Malaysia Day!
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.